OutRun last edited by MrSensible on 01/20/19 02:14PM View full history

Overview

OutRun's starting line
OutRun's starting line

OutRun is a 1986 Sega arcade driving game designed by Yu Suzuki and developed by Sega-AM2. In the style of a point-to-point road rally, players take the wheel of a convertible sports car and attempt to reach the end of a five-stage open-road driving course before exhausting their time limit. The game employs Sega's "Super Scaler" graphics technology to simulate a 3D perspective using sprite scaling techniques, and OutRun's success helped to popularize the "behind-the-car" presentation shared with some of its competitors in the racing/driving genre, such as Namco's Pole Position.

OutRun was ported to several contemporary home consoles and computers since its original arcade release, including Sega's own Master System and Genesis. It is included in a number of Sega compilations such as the Sega Ages 2500 series, as well as making appearances as playable arcade minigames in both Shenmue II and Yakuza 0.

3D OutRun, an updated version of the original arcade game with stereoscopic 3D support and other enhancements was released for Nintendo 3DS in 2014. This version was subsequently used as the basis for Sega Ages: OutRun on Nintendo Switch.

Gameplay

Although OutRun can generally be classified into the racing genre, it is not "racing" in the technical sense because there are no other competitors on the course. Instead the objective in OutRun is to complete a five-Stage open-road driving course and reach any one of five possible goals (labeled "A" through "E") before time expires. When the game begins, players select one of three music tracks (with additional songs in some later versions) before being brought to the course's starting line. Players receive additional time on the clock by passing through checkpoints separating each Stage of the course. Colliding with traffic hazards such as signs, trees or other vehicles may cause the player's vehicle to crash, leading to a significant time loss. All roads in OutRun are one-way with no oncoming traffic, and the player's car can never fully turn around or travel in reverse.

Devil's Canyon
Devil's Canyon

OutRun arcade cabinets are equipped with controls resembling a real car's steering wheel, gearshift, accelerator and brake pedals. The steering wheel moves the vehicle to the left and right, while the accelerator and brake pedals control the vehicle's speed. The gearshift has only two positions: Low and High. Low gear has a default top speed of 193 km/h and is typically used when accelerating from a dead stop. Shifting into High gear increases the vehicle's top speed to 293 km/h, but the higher speed also makes handling more difficult. Quickly shifting between High and Low gears can also offer extra traction in tight corners (or aid in recovering from driving errors) with minimal loss of speed.

An RPM meter located below the speedometer is divided into white, green and red sections. While accelerating in Low gear, the RPM meter starts in the white section and gradually increases. Once the RPM meter reaches green, the player can shift into High gear smoothly; attempting to shift gears outside of the green will typically result in reduced performance and/or loss of traction. Players can also "rev" the engine from a dead stop to gain faster acceleration, provided they can keep the RPMs near the green section until the vehicle begins moving.

Players continuously accrue score points so long as their vehicle remains in motion. Avoiding obstacles and maintaining a high speed throughout the course is key to achieving a high score. The game ends when either time expires or the player finishes the course. Upon completion of all five Stages, players also receive one million bonus points for each second remaining on the timer.

Course Map

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OutRun's Course Map is divided into fifteen distinct driving areas called "Scenes" and always starts at Coconut Beach as the first Stage. Near the end of a Stage, a two-way junction appears where players can choose to travel either left or right. The chosen path determines the Scene in which the next Stage of the course takes place, with some Scenes presenting more difficult driving challenges than others. These branching paths allow for a total of twenty-five possible variants on the layout of a complete five-Stage OutRun course.

Some Scenes appear in a different order between the Japanese and international versions of OutRun, along with various changes to track configurations in certain areas.

Japanese version

Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Goal
VineyardA
Wilderness
Desert Death ValleyB
Wheat Field Old Capital
Coconut Beach Alps Desolation HillC
Cloudy Mountain Gateway
Devil's Canyon AutobahnD
Seaside Town
LakesideE

International version

Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Goal
VineyardA
Wilderness
Desert Death ValleyB
Gateway Old Capital
Coconut Beach Alps Desolation HillC
Devil's Canyon Wheat Field
Cloudy Mountain AutobahnD
Seaside Town
LakesideE
Gateway
Gateway
  • Coconut Beach: Every course starts at a sandy coastal area with plenty of surf and sun. A wide-open road with gentle turns acts as a warm-up for later areas.
  • Gateway: Huge Stonehenge-like gates frame the road in this hilly grassland area.
  • Devil's Canyon: Initially bordered on the right by a rocky cliff, negotiating traffic becomes more difficult about halfway through when the road enters the canyon proper.
  • Desert: A twisty, narrow road stretching across rolling dunes. There are few hazards in this area besides traffic, but the road itself can be difficult to see beneath sand drifts.
  • Alps: Tall mountains, colorful flower fields and several windmills give this scenic area a distinctly Alpine flavor.
  • Cloudy Mountain: A series of steep straightaways climb up a forested mountain blanketed by perpetual cloud cover.
  • Wilderness: An arid, cactus-dotted plain surrounding a narrow and curvy dirt road.
  • Old Capital: Tall trees and brown stone buildings line the main thoroughfare of this historic city area.
  • Wheat Field: A crooked country road cutting through yellow wheat fields.
  • Seaside Town: This pleasant coastal town is characterized by white stone buildings and rocky cliffs.
  • Vineyard: A tract of beautiful Mediterranean countryside hosting a large vineyard.
  • Death Valley: A rocky red desert covered in dry brush with plenty of sharp turns and thick traffic.
  • Desolation Hill: Crumbling ruins and large boulders lie scattered throughout this sandy wasteland.
  • Autobahn: Heavy traffic clogs a wide, low-lying highway full of high-speed turns and dangerous medians.
  • Lakeside: A highway leading towards a lakeside town with an abundance of greenery lining both sides.

Reaching any of the five Goals triggers one of OutRun's five ending scenes, each of which involve the male driver character and his female passenger in different humorous situations.

Development

OutRun designer and lead programmer Yu Suzuki joined Sega in 1983. After establishing himself as a proficient arcade developer with releases such as 1985's Hang-On and Space Harrier, Suzuki turned his attention towards helping Sega dethrone Namco, developer of the highly popular Pole Position, as Japan's leading manufacturer of coin-operated racing games at the time. However, Suzuki had another, more personal reason behind creating OutRun:

"The main impetus behind OutRun's creation was my love of a film called The Cannonball Run. I thought it would be good to make a game like that. The film crosses America, so I made a plan to follow the same course and collect data as I went. But I realized, once I'd arranged everything, that the scenery along the [pan-American] course actually doesn't change very much, so I revised my plan and decided to collect data in Europe instead..."

-Yu Suzuki in a Retro Gamer interview, Sept. 2008
Cloudy Mountain
Cloudy Mountain

Suzuki's research plans culminated in a two-week cross-country car trip through Europe. Starting in Frankfurt, Germany, he hired a rental car and installed a video camera onto it before driving through Monaco, Monte Carlo and Switzerland; Suzuki also made stops in the Italian cities of Milan, Venice and Rome. He spoke with local people in the places he visited, usually in English, in an effort to reflect more regional flavor in the game.

Despite using Sega's state-of-the-art arcade hardware, some omissions had to be made to OutRun's design due to technological and budgetary limitations. Suzuki had initially planned to have eight playable characters and various events at each checkpoint of a race so that players could experience a story in the vein of the Cannonball Run film. He also wanted OutRun to offer players a wide selection of real-world "supercars" with different levels of performance, but memory constraints forced him to settle on a single vehicle. In the end, the team chose Suzuki's personal favorite, and one of the most powerful and famous sports cars in the world at the time: the twelve-cylinder Ferrari Testarossa.

Upon returning to Japan from his European research trip, Suzuki and his team set out to learn more about the Testarossa by examining it in person. However, the extravagant car was only brought to Japan in extremely limited quantities, causing Suzuki some difficulty in locating one for observation. Eventually he made contact with a private Japanese Testarossa owner, who allowed Suzuki's team access for taking photos of every side of the vehicle at five-degree intervals, as well as recording the sound of the engine. The car featured in OutRun is more specifically a Testarossa Spider, an open-roof version of the Ferrari-produced car with an unofficial "Spider" aftermarket conversion.

Unlike many of its predecessors in the racing genre, Suzuki sought to bring a sense of fairness and realism to OutRun with the handling characteristics of the player's car:

"At the time of OutRun's development, driving games were made whereby a collision with another car would automatically result in an explosion, and they had many things that would be impossible with real cars. Even if you were good at driving actual cars, the skills needed in those games were completely different. I wanted to make a driving game where people who were skillful drivers of cars could also achieve good results in the game. For that reason, where at all possible, we simulated features such as horsepower, torque, gear ratios and tire engineering close to those of real cars. For features that were difficult to control, we added AI assistance. For its time, I think the level of OutRun's production was very high."

Suzuki's team for OutRun was assembled from random Sega development staff who happened to be available for new projects at the time. It consisted of four programmers, five graphics designers and one sound engineer working over a period of approximately eight to ten months on the game. According to Suzuki, he personally planned out all significant design aspects of OutRun, and during the game's active development period he was "almost living at Sega".

No Caption Provided

OutRun's iconic music was created by longtime Sega composer Hiroshi Kawaguchi, often credited as "Hiro" in various games. Suzuki had previously commissioned Kawaguchi to produce the music for Hang-On after hearing his amateur compositions; Kawaguchi then abandoned his previous position as a programmer to become a full-time in-house composer at Sega. His initial assignment for OutRun as specified by Suzuki was to create "eight-beat rock rhythms at a tempo of 150bpm," including guitar and voice samples. However, these plans were scrapped due to technology constraints, leading Kawaguchi to instead compose a more synth-focused soundtrack influenced by jazz fusion, Latin and Caribbean music.

Arcade Cabinets & Hardware

There are at least five official models of the OutRun arcade cabinet produced by Sega. Most feature a steering wheel equipped with force feedback that shakes when players leave the road or crash, as well as a gearshift, brake and accelerator pedal controls. All models also use commercial-grade Nanao CRT monitors. OutRun was the final Sega arcade title to use Nanao monitors; subsequent coin-op titles from Sega used Samsung-brand monitors as a cost-cutting measure.

A hydraulic motor system is built into the Deluxe and Standard models, allowing these cabinets to tilt along with the on-screen action. After Hang-On and Space Harrier, OutRun was Sega's third arcade title to incorporate the concept of physically moving the player's body in order to provide better immersion and realism. These sophisticated and expensive cabinets were commonly known as taikan or "body sensation" games in Japan, and they became a staple of Japanese arcades during the mid- to late-eighties.

Deluxe: The flagship of Sega's line of OutRun cabinets is a premium sit-down model built to resemble a sports car, complete with rear wheels, illuminated taillights and a custom-molded seat. Its main selling point is the hydraulics that allow the entire cabinet to tilt in-sync with the on-screen gameplay, providing a simulation of the g-forces encountered while driving a real car. This cabinet also features a larger twenty-six-inch monitor, as well as dual speakers mounted on each side of the seat's headrest for delivering clear stereo sound directly into players' ears.
No Caption Provided
Standard: A slightly slimmer sit-down cabinet with a generic seat and the smaller twenty-inch monitor shared with all non-Deluxe OutRun cabinets. Despite missing some of the Deluxe version's extra features, it retains the hydraulics for enabling full cabinet motion.
No Caption Provided
Upright: The first stand-up version of OutRun occupies a much smaller footprint due to its vertical orientation and lack of a fixed seat or hydraulics. It retains the same basic control configuration as the sit-down models; however, the Upright's gearshift is located to the right of the steering wheel, instead of to the left of the seat as in the Deluxe and Standard models.
No Caption Provided
Cockpit: This rare Japan-only sit-down model is mostly enclosed in a cockpit-like design, with a transparent sheet of plastic mimicking a car's rear window positioned directly behind the seat. This version lacks the Deluxe and Standard versions' hydraulics, as well as the steering wheel force feedback present in every other cabinet model.
No Caption Provided
Mini/Cabaret: A revised and smaller stand-up model with red Sega logos on the side panels. The steering wheel's internal "rumble" motors were redesigned for the Mini, resulting in a reduced intensity in its force feedback compared to earlier OutRun cabinet models.
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Sega's OutRun arcade system board was developed as the successor to AM2's Hang-On hardware, making it the second in Sega's "Super Scaler" series of sprite-based 3D arcade system hardware. As with Hang-On, OutRun's hardware has specifications similar to those of the System 16, another Sega arcade board used in several titles such as Shinobi, Fantasy Zone and Golden Axe. The major differences between OutRun's hardware and the System 16 board were the addition of a second Motorola 68000 central processor, and a separate video board which enables an extra graphics layer used for rendering the road, as well as adding sprite- and texture-scaling capabilities.

Super Hang-On and Turbo OutRun both use OutRun's arcade system hardware.

Impact & Legacy

OutRun was very successful for Sega both critically and commercially as an attractive alternative to less-sophisticated (and usually less-forgiving) racing titles. It quickly became one of the best-selling arcade games of its time, with more than 30,000 arcade cabinets sold worldwide and ports for multiple home consoles. It received praise for innovative features such as its selectable soundtrack, dynamic changes in track elevation and branching non-linear gameplay. Although it was not the first Sega title to make use of hydraulics (an honor belonging to Space Harrier), OutRun's greater success further boosted the popularity of "body sensation" games in arcades.

OutRun had a especially significant cultural impact in Japanese arcades, where players devised new driving techniques for achieving the highest possible score. These included the "gear gacha" shifting maneuver, a trick featured in then-popular Japanese gaming magazine Gamest that involves repeatedly upshifting and downshifting in order to maintain the car's speed even while off-road. Widespread knowledge of this technique ultimately resulted in excessive wear-and-tear on many Japanese OutRun cabinets' gearshifts.

Perhaps due to its contemporaneous release in 1986 and certain similarities in both games' presentation, OutRun often drew critical comparisons to Konami's arcade racer WEC Le Mans, which featured a more sophisticated hydraulic cabinet. It was OutRun, however, that went on to become the much more popular game.

OutRun's success led to a number of Sega-produced sequels including 1989's Turbo Outrun, developed once again by AM2. OutRunners, a 1992 arcade follow-up with multiplayer support, was instead handled by Sega's AM1 division. AM2 returned to the series in 2003 with OutRun 2, the franchise's most recent arcade release.

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